We live in a world where ‘being busy’ is worn like a badge of honour. There are so many people who boast about their diary commitments as if it’s something to be proud of and for them perhaps it is, perhaps that’s the way they choose to live their lives and perhaps that’s how they’ve designed their life.
I find that so many people are busy glorifying how busy they are and how much they’ve got to do because that’s the way they’ve always lived and I think our society promotes busyness in this way too. It’s as though if we’re busy with different social engagements and activities then we must be happy because our diaries are filled with exciting things, but, when we live like this we don’t leave time to relax or reflect and that can lead to overwhelm or unhappiness for some. I know how this feels first hand because I used to feel overwhelmed and because I used to live my life in this way too!
I was running from one thing to another, I had lists upon lists of jobs and things I wanted to do and I’d cram things into our diaries and calendars to make sure we always had exciting things to do. We’ve got a large circle of friends too so at times it was hard to keep in touch with everyone and stay in touch with old friends, new friends, school mums and others but, I used to try to do it all. I wanted to keep in touch with everyone but, that meant that some friendships got diluted as I’d often give the same level of friendship to all, or at least try.
But, I’ve learnt that being busy and overwhelmed with life is not good for not only your mental well being but, your physical well being too. I got so busy making a living that at times I forgot to make life and it took me a while to realise this but, the moment I did it was like a revelation.
After a period of self discovery and lots of reflection about life, I soon realised that all I craved was ‘time and connection’ with my family and loved ones and that was all I ever wanted was the simple life. I wasn’t interested in materialistic possessions, we didn’t own a big flashy car, we didn’t have expensive holidays and we don’t own designer clothes either yet, we earned a decent household salary but, didn’t seem to have anything to show for it. So where was it all going and what were we spending it on?
Around about the same time we started monitoring our spending habits and realised that we were wasting money on things we didn’t need or weren’t necessary. Yet, all I wanted to be was debt free ( we didn’t have much – but, enough) and have enough money to do what we wanted to do but, I kept self sabotaging and kept over spending and this wasn’t helping me work towards a life of freedom and passion.
So we started making a plan and I started reading about topics including, mindfulness, meditation as these two things would enable me to change my mindset and live in the present moment. I started reading about minimalism and we started our journey with getting rid of all those useless things we’d collected over time and it felt good. We’d hold car boot sales twice a year to get rid of things we didn’t need and then we’d give the rest to charity and it felt so good to pass on these items to others who might need them and we got the boys involved in this too.
We started to create space in our home (finally) and our home felt a little more roomier and I felt as though I didn’t have to move stuff from one place to another all the time, everything had a home. Our home is actually our one expense that I wouldn’t want to do without. You see for as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted a forever home and two years we finally moved into it and it’s become our labour of love. For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted a beautiful home that our children could grow up in and now we have and I’m so happy that we saved and worked hard for this as we’re now living happily in our home. It’s a forever home but, it’s going to take forever to renovate but, I’m okay with that, gone are the days I want to get in debt just so everything can be done at once. Now I’d rather save for it or do without and it’s become a real labour of love for us, we love choosing carefully the things we want in our home and I get so much pleasure from that.
Living the simple life doesn’t mean doing without the things you want most, it means making conscious decisions about the things you do and want most in life. It means living within or even below your means if you can (that bit is work in progress for us but, we’re getting there) and it means designing and living a life you love.
So in 2014 we started making our ‘Life Plan,’ and we took a step back and began designing the life we wanted to live. We started thinking about our priorities for our family and began thinking about what it was that we wanted to achieve in our lives and then we set to work. We began with our finances and started reviewing our income and expenditure and for the first time in a long while set ourselves a budget and stuck to it (mostly, we had the occasional slip up), we made the decision to keep the old cars we had as even though they rattled and were not as eye catching as some of the newer cars but, they were paid for and it wasn’t a priority for us. We began by sorting out the things in our house and started getting rid of the things we no longer needed and we worked out how we were going to pay off any outstanding debt we had and we set to work.
It took us a while but, we did it and that enabled us to live on less every month which meant that we didn’t need to earn as much as we’d earned previously and this gave us choices. The choice to choose what we wanted to do, I had worked full time for 20 years and now with a young family I made the decision I no longer wanted to do this but, at the time when the boys were born I couldn’t give up my job as we had too many outgoings and the company I worked for wouldn’t let me reduce my working days. I began to look for an alternative job but, nothing suited and nothing paid the salary I needed so I was stuck, for a while anyway.
But, 3 years on I was able to have the freedom and choice to live a different lifestyle as we no longer had the outgoings we once did and this felt good! I was finally able to choose the way we wanted to live and Richard (my husband) supported me to make these choices. He knew I wanted to retrain so he supported me and we saved up for my training to become a Life Coach and a Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher, these were areas that had hugely benefited me and us as a family and I wanted to help others live a life they loved to.
The training was expensive but, I loved every minute of it and I knew this was what I wanted to do and now I work with others to help them to do the same. The sobering truth was I was previously spending money on things I didn’t need, probably because I wasn’t happy in the life I was living but, once I took control and took a step back I was able to start designing a life I loved and that in itself felt empowering!
I was now able to spend time with my family and friends so much more and I stopped over planning and filling my days with endless tasks or jobs to do. I started living, really ‘living’ and as a family we planned to spend more time outdoors and exploring the local area and our weekends and days together felt so much more intentional and calmer. These were the days where we were able to spend time outdoors in nature, eating picnics in wooden dens and on the river bank and we were loving every minute of it. This was the time when I stopped feeling overwhelmed by life, this was the turning point for us as a family.
The key to overcoming overwhelm and busyness is to simply take control, design your life and starting taking action. Living mindfully and consciously means being fully aware of your actions and not just thinking, ‘What the heck, lets’ do this anyway!’ because these are the decisions that tend to bite you in the backside when you least expect it.
At the time we were reducing our outgoings and the things we had in our lives I discovered this quote,
‘The things you own end up owning you in the end . It’s only after you lose everything that
you’re free to do anything.’
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
This resonated with me so much as I could completely relate and even though we didn’t lose ‘everything’ I understood it’s meaning. In the past we’d renovated homes and bought things we couldn’t afford because we could and because the banks would throw money at you and it felt good for all of one second but, then that feeling wore off and we were left with the debt.
But, this is the norm in today’s world, so many others have debt so they can ‘add more’ into their life. They strive for more money, more success, newer more expensive cars, bigger houses, and more stuff and we’ve all fallen foul of this but, by owning more, can hinder us from living the life we really want to live.
‘So many people live their lives without even a thought about what they’re doing or where they’re going in life. They rarely pause to take a moment to reflect on their life so far and think about what it is that they want their life to look like and then plan how they’re going to achieve it. Many don’t think about the person they’ve become or the person they want to become and because of this many lead unintentional lives.’
We want to open people’s eyes to an alternative way of living, a more intentional way of living where you make conscious choices about the decisions you make every single day. This is the life of no regrets, this is the simple life – a life of freedom, choice and fulfillment. Life on the other side is so much simpler, happier and we’re enjoying the journey so far.
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